Glossary of Assignment Terms

Fleur Blanford demystifies the terms in CIPD assignments

We do hope that you are finding our 10 Top Tips for Writing the Perfect CIPD Assignment and Successful Assignment Writing blogs informative and helpful. 

Building on our bank of resources for students we would now like to add to these and provide you with some further useful assistance.

When you begin to write your assignments you will already have carefully read the requirements of the assignment. Your tutor will also have briefed you on this in class and now is the time to make a start.

You will note that each part of the assignment gives you an ‘instruction’. This will normally contain an action verb or word such as explain, define, describe, analyse etc. It is important to understand what each of these mean as it does have an impact on the way in which you will respond to the assignment requirements.  

In the majority of assignments at Foundation Level (Level 3) you are asked to describe, explain or define issues that you have covered in the classroom. Your overall understanding is required but nothing too in depth or detailed.

However, at Intermediate Level (Level 5) you are more likely to be asked to analyse, evaluate or assess certain themes and topics. The purpose here is to demonstrate a deeper level of understanding of the issues you are addressing and be able to apply some critical thinking to your responses.

There are some exceptions to this – for example, you may find in some Foundation level assignments you are also asked to analyse or evaluate. On the other hand at Intermediate level, some reports only require a definition or description. As such it is really important to know what is expected for each of the actions required.  

This could make the difference between a first time pass for your reports and you needing to do a little more. If you have been asked to analyse a specific issue and you have only described it, your assessor will ask you to review your assignment in line with the requirements. 

So – to help you further, here is a glossary of terms and an example of how they might be used:

Assignment Term Glossary

Describe
Provide  simple description.

Define
To state the precise meaning of something.

Assess
To carefully consider a situation, person or problem in order to make a judgement.

Explain
To tell someone something in a way that helps them better understand.

Evaluation (or Evaluate)
Decides the value of something e.g tells you if something is good or bad; useful or not useful; valid or invalid. An evaluation makes a judgement about the quality of something, such as an argument or decision.

Analysis
Finds out the parts of something e.g. its elements; structure; process. An analysis infers the meaning or purpose of something; it makes an interpretation

Critique
A careful judgement in which you give your opinion about something

Example

Your assignment requires you to write about Organisational Culture.  You may be asked to do this in one of several ways – the following are examples of how you might respond;

Describe the culture of your organisation
The culture of our organisation is very open.

Define the culture of your organisation
An open organisation is one where ideas, knowledge and skills are shared. The hierarchy is usually flat.

Assess the culture of your organisation 
The open culture of our organisation makes the working environment relaxed and informal. The result is that the workforce is motivated and happy.

Explain the culture of your organisation
Our organisation operates an open culture.  An open culture is one where employees are encouraged to openly exchange ideas and have a shared vision of the company.

Evaluation (or Evaluate) of the culture of your organisation
The open culture of our organisation adds value to our company by encouraging free speech and enabling all employees the opportunity of being a stakeholder in the decision making process.

Analysis of the culture of your organisation 
The open culture of our organisation operates by all employees having full access to line managers at all times. Informal breaks are encouraged in order to allow staff to exchange ideas and information. The purpose of this is to avoid the necessity to await formal weekly meetings by which time information may be outdated.

Critique of the culture of your organisation
Based on my investigation of an open culture within organisations, this would appear to be a valuable and positive way for an organisation to run. However, there would seem to be some opportunities for less conscientious employees to take advantage of certain aspects of this such as the informal arrangement of meetings and having so much access to managers. It could be considered restrictive to working autonomously. 

We hope that this will be helpful to you. Following these examples, you will be able to focus your assignments in line with the action you are asked to take. 

Good luck! 

Fleur Blanford
Director of Studies

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